Another image that expresses the failure of consumer capitalism: Bankrupt, abandoned, capitalism has failed to elevate humanity in “the land of opportunity” but has consumed a humanity that surrounds itself with objects they will only discard. Humanity is addicted to purchasing power but has failed to value the purchase.
The latest video from the Veritasium Channel. One of my favorite YouTube channels. For the geek in me. LOL.
In one of my earlier posts I gave links for some of my favorite websites. This video I’m posting today is from NASA. It’s the most recent edition of their regular series SPACECAST WEEKLY. This video I found extremely fascinating because it talked about how astronauts train for space walks and the space suits they wear on these space walks. Also I loved the interview with a Canadian astronaut that spent time on the ISS. They also talk about the commercialization of space which is something I am personally concerned with. Because there is a big issue with space trash orbiting the Earth that is making it difficult to navigate launches into space etc. There is so much debris. It may not seem like much but it is getting worse. And with the commercialization of space I’m worried it will become exponentially worse because of all the satellites they are launching into space, especially all the so-called cube-sats or small satellites. For example SpaceX will soon set a record for most satellites launched on a single mission (143 total satellites – how is this not polluting space?)
So without further adieu here is SPACECAST WEEKLY. Enjoy.
and to pick up on my earlier comments about space debris. Will we eventually have so much debris that we will no longer be able to safely go into space? And will there eventually be so much debris that people in space may not be able to safely return to earth? Here’s an interesting documentary (fyi only the first half is about space junk – but the whole video is interesting).
I’m looking at clouds from the inside and asking questions in a world of blue. Floating in the icy ether of wonder and amazement. I feel the cold harshness of ice yet am comforted by the blanket of fog wrapped around my body and soul, satisfied by the question when the answer eludes me.
The song Sung by Julee Cruise, Questions In A World Of Blue from the TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME film soundtrack. Written by master song stylist Angelo Badalamenti. A beautiful song of loss. The musical essence of saudade. Like ice and fog.
Once in a while there is music that comes my way that causes me to sit up and take notice in the same way that a slap in the face does like good art tends to do. The two tracks I present here today have done just that. I’ve listened to both repeatedly and also the videos are top notch. The videos are also related in their themes.
First is MANDRILL by Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). It is an instrumental track that carries a strong industrial beat similar to 80’s/90’s era Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. It is the lead single from Gore’s forthcoming solo instrumental EP, THE THIRD APE. The music was inspired by THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE written by culture and anthropological historian Jared Diamond. In the book Diamond lays out the argument that humanity is the third chimpanzee. The chimpanzee is genetically more closely related to humanity than to other apes, monkeys or primates. Diamond proceeds to draw many lines of comparison to reveal the truth of his observations and assertions about the evolution and future of the human animal. After watching this video I immediately purchased the book and found it a fascinating read.
Now back to the video. When I first saw the video several things stood out. The abstract nature of the videos “film language” mixing abstract art, animalistic representation with (what felt like) aggressive expression of the Mandrill featured in the video, the frequent appearance of figures of three (usually expressed in bars or strokes), the white palm print of which I can’t help but draw comparisons to the white hand of Sauron on the Orc’s that served him in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. And then there are the splatterings that seem to suggest uncontrolled madness as they appear on the canvas. There is also the way the abstract at one point starts to flow from the top of the screen like blood.
Was the Mandrill barking and biting back at humanity? Is this an animalistic criticism of humanities aggressive devastation of the planet? Just how much blood does humanity have on it’s hands? For me this video feels like observation and commentary instead of just criticism. I think this is a good thing because it means that there is still hope to change the outcome.
This next video is by 80’s musician Gary Numan. INTRUDER is the title track from his forthcoming album (May 2021). This is very dark and visceral. Visually, near monochrome, the video is filled with abstraction with the literal dissection of the performer by dark blurred geometric shapes in contrast to appears of what seems like roots, bones or animal parts, something I can’t define. It feels shamanistic and is a perfect statement for our time. I’m struck by the lyrics. In the beginning it’s about the “I” and by time we reach the end it’s about “you”. Taken as a whole it’s about us, you and me. Numan, as a fragmented singing spirit in the beginning seems to ask “What does humanity really want?” What choices are we faced with? In a world that is all talk where people gravitate to like-mindedness on social media that creates greater division, less tolerance and understanding; this song is a definite criticism, but still ends with a sense of hope by asking the question “Don’t you wish you listened more?” Which is also the resolution to the problem. He is critical of religion, and rightfully so, as religion has become a pawn of those who seek power and control. Speaking is more a religious act and listening is a more spiritual act.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the character in the video is some sort of demon or dark force but I would like to suggest that it is the earth itself like a dark angel holding up a mirror to reflect us back to ourselves on what we’ve become. And in this video there is the deliberate “blood on our hands” image – and if we consider the mirror reflecting back to us – we take pride in that blood as we streak it down our faces with a war-like tribal ritual to show our power. Not only do we have the blood of all the lives we’ve slaughtered but the blood of the planet itself with our environmental devastation. Do we like what we see? Will we make the right choices and decisions going forward? Will we continue to be the intruder or the caretaker/restorer? If we kill the planet we kill ourselves.
I could listen to you scream Pretty music to my ears I could listen to it all day If you want me to I could talk about my world How you brought about ruin I could talk about your greed If you want me to I could look into evil See a heart just like mine I could throw away reason If you want me to I could walk into darkness Find the hole you crawled into I will be the intruder If you want me to You can whisper your lord's prayer And pretend that it matters But don't you wish you'd just listened more? You can hide in the shadows And pretend I won't find you But don't you wish you'd just listened more? I could listen to more lies About promises you kept Will you walk on water Like you said you would? I could make you my prisoner But you were dead men talking When you burned the oceans Like you said you would You can beg for god's mercy And pretend that he hears you But don't you wish you'd just listened more? You can drown in your sorrow And pretend you were helpless But don't you wish you'd just listened more? This was always your one life I won't pretend that it matters But don't you wish you'd just listened more? This was always your one home I won't pretend that I'll miss you But don't you wish you'd just listened more?
Well that’s my take on these two videos. What are your impressions? Leave a comment – I’m listening.
***I can’t promise the videos can be seen outside the US but hopefully you will find a version you can watch.
Song is The Morning Fog by Kate Bush
Song is called EYES WIDE OPEN by King Crimson from their album The Power To Believe.
The pleasures and pain of keeping one’s “eyes wide open all the time”. It can be a blessing and a curse.
Here it comes, here comes another day
Another decision on the way
Well here it comes, here comes a covered display
Of preferences to make
Well here it comes, here comes a knock on the door
Open it for an opportunity
Well here it comes, here comes another day
For memories to be madeEyes wide open
Eyes wide open all the time’n there it was, it was a perfect take
And were you asleep or awake
There it was, it was a perfect time
To speak your mind
‘n there it was, it was a chance of a lifetime
It flew right by and what did you do?
Well there it was, it was another day
For memories to be madeEyes wide open
Eyes wide open all the time
I’ve got my eyes wide open
Eyes wide open all the time
Because you never know
What you might see
I sometimes think there are 5 seasons instead of 4. Fog is like its own season because like the other 4 seasons it completely changes our perception of the landscape.
A delightful song, LOST IN A FOG, sung by Ella Fitzgerald.
*no guarantee video will play outside the US.*
So you may wonder given the nature of my posts; what are my favorite YouTube channels?
Well hang on to your britches because I’m about to tell you. And some may surprise you. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all channels I follow – but just favorites that regularly and consistently post new content. For examples there are many music channels that I follow but the vast majority have sporadic postings or inconsistent in featuring work that interests me. These are not in any particular rank. Just a list.
- https://www.youtube.com/user/usgs is the site for the United States Geological Survey. It features viddy’s and information on volcano’s, earthquakes and tectonics and other geological interests. More than some other sites it reveals my geeky interests in scientific study.
- keeping with a theme, https://www.youtube.com/c/veritasium : Veritasium is a hybrid word that combines the latin word for “truth” (Veritas) and the suffix of most elements on the periodic chart (ium) therefore creating Veritasium (i.e. an “an element of truth”). These videos explore various scientific topics both in physics, biology, geology, as well as some more philosophic subjects. I find them informative, entertaining and just plain interesting. The creator of this chanel, Derek Muller, also has children so there are several videos that are science subjects geared for children as well as learning resources. I highly recommend it.
- I also love Bonsai. https://www.youtube.com/c/EiseienBonsai is a great channel to learn about and understand Bonsai craft in great detail. While I personally do not have Bonsai, I have always wanted to start but have been a little intimidated. Maybe this is the year I will finally Start.
- Another channel for Bonsai that I follow is https://www.youtube.com/c/HeronsBonsaiUK this UK based nursery has great videos that I would describe as Bonsai for the Common Person or for the beginner. The presenter is very down-to-earth and very relatable.
- Next up is https://www.youtube.com/c/bbcearth This channel really has some remarkable nature videos. While I am not a fan of having “pets” I absolutely do love wild animals in their natural habitat. And this channel fills that “cup of interest” to the brim.
- Along similar lines is the National Geographic website https://www.youtube.com/c/NatGeo with it’s own unique perspective on the world we live on and the people, flora and fauna that we share it with.
- Now something may not be much of a surprise because I’ve posted videos from this channel here on the blog. https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLouisianaChannel The Louisiana Channel is an arts channel with in-depth interviews discussion and analysis with artists, musicians and writers. For me it is an endless source of inspiration and exposure to some things I might not normally find.
- https://www.youtube.com/user/Nerdwriter1 Nerdwriter is another channel I absolutely adore. Posts are less frequent that most other channels featured here – but when there is a post it blows my mind. It has taught me so much about art, writing, philosophy etc.
- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_43mQmHwHPTBBqImFrWU3Q Sean Tucker is a professional photographer who has some amazing insights into not only photography but photography in the age of the internet. His videos are informative, instructional and at time philosophical. What an amazing personality.
- And lastly to go back to the beginning of the list https://www.youtube.com/user/NASAgovVideo the official NASA channel is amazing and wonderful for all things NASA related. I especially like their “Spacecast Weekly” which is a weekly digest of news and information direct from NASA for all you space geeks.
And that’s it my friend. Of the 56 channels I follow on YouTube these are my absolute favorites that bring me an endless source of enjoyment, inspiration and information. And to re-iterate – these are not ranked in any particular order. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend everyone.
It is clear that Donald Trump MUST be forcibly restrained! Who will restrain him? Anyone who deliberately incites insurrection (even the president of the United States) IS A CRIMINAL and must be treated as such! It is clear he is no longer the President but the “patient” and must be treated as such! Immediate impeachment and hospitalization or jail are required!
Culture wars begun long ago and no one cares living in the moment ignoring the past You did not ask for this war I did not ask for this war yet here we are stuck on the front lines drafted by those we did not vote for A war fomented by the news media shaped by the influencers on the internet and social media: Systemic Racism Economic Injustice Gender inequality Public Shaming - the cancel culture Everyone’s a victim We consume victimization like our favorite foods We digest our own destruction 21st Century Ouroboros vipers all We ignore the shit that comes out the other end We stubbornly refuse to clean up (it’s up to the other person) We obsessively and repeatedly fuel our consumption of outrage The scales have tipped As a species we are tilting at windmills in our self-prescribed delusion I did not ask for this war You did not ask for this war And the question is not IF we should fight But HOW we should fight Military wars always kill Culture wars are fought for control Control of your mind Control of your freedom Control of your expression Control of your creativity Control of your religion (even if you have no religion) Control of your education Control of your own body Fingers point everywhere but no one cares that when you point one finger at someone, or something else, three fingers point back to you We will never agree so we might as well learn to live together And the question is not IF we should fight But HOW we should fight How should I fight this war that I did not ask for? It seems an impossible dream to fight a war with love, compassion, grace & humility when all around you is blame, blind rage, raw hatred and venomous pride Love, grace, compassion and understanding does not require agreement Jesus didn’t die for any one person’s sins Two things killed Jesus Christ - Politics and Religion Their control was threatened by the gospel of peace, love and freedom "You see, control can never be a means to any practical end... It can never be a means to anything but more control...like junk..” (1) “Is Control controlled by its need to control? Answer: yes.” (2) The way to win this war is to give up control to lose control The death of one is the birth of another Change is coming that we cannot control Change is here Change we can shape “I awakened to the cry That the people have the power To redeem the work of fools Upon the meek the graces shower It's decreed the people rule” (3) We must surrender this culture of complaint and realize we will never be able to control others we can only control our selves. “Just Do It!” (4) Let the lion lie down with the lamb Let the darkness meet the light Let hell and heaven merge in the forge of life on earth to burn off the dross of our misgivings revealing yours and mine shining gold dream “The siren and the ecstasy, … the one in front of me New gold dream” (5) I did not ask for this war You did not ask for this war But we CAN end it! Will We? “And the mercy seat is waiting And I think my head is burning In a way I'm yearning To be done with all this measuring of truth An eye for an eye And a tooth for a tooth And anyway I told the truth And I'm not afraid to die” (6)
1 quote by William S Burroughs from NAKED LUNCH 2 quote by William S Burroughs from AH POOK IS HERE; AND OTHER TEXTS 3 lyric from PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER by Patti Smith 4 slogan from Nike commercial 5 lyric from NEW GOLD DREAM by Simple Minds 6 lyric from MERCY SEAT by Nick Cave And now the answer to the question asked in the title of the photo above "Hello, It's Me" by Todd Rundgren from his album Something/Anything?
Happy New Year everyone. The promise of snow over the Holidays was not exaggerated. On Christmas morning we had 6-8 inches on the ground and and 1-2 inches fell throughout Christmas Day. But that is past. The New Year is upon us. This song expresses my dearest desire for each and every one of you. That you feel safe. For safety is not about the pandemic and has pitifully dominated the past year – like the song says it’s about living with/in grace, being rested, calm, anchored, unchained, holding no blame, no fear, no blame, being brave and open. I would also argue that is the foundation of love. I love each and everyone one of you even if we have never physically met. Thank you for your kindness and support.
we’ve fought so hard
we’ve come so far
back where we began
and for all the joys and sorrows
finally we can
and the future is everything
as we forgive ourselves
and we reach beyond the wreckage
of you loving someone else
our hearts are still surrendering
now the wounds will heal
in spite of everything
learning how to feel
be kind and always
remember to love
this one life we live
has to be enough
be kind and always
remember to love
this one life we live
has to be enough
In this post I want to focus on two musicals that are directly connected to non-musical films. I am a HUGE lover of Federico Fellini’s films. I think I have all of them on DVD. And have watched them dozens of times and still find them enjoyable.
Three Fellini films were adapted into musicals (stage and/or film). The film that was only adapted for the live stage was La Strada. 8 1/2 one of Fellini’s several masterpieces was adapted first into a live stage production and re-named NINE. And was later adapted by director Rob Marshall for film. If you love Fellini it can be a bit unnerving at first to watch this musical. But it does pay off with repeated viewings. Fellini was known for his film style called magical realism mixing flights of fancy with realistic situations and settings. The musicals don’t seem to carry that over so well. NINE especially seems more like straight opera in an obviously staged setting. But it’s overall story is consistent with the film about a film director in crisis professionally, romantically and emotionally. And the music in NINE is absolutely wonderful. It has an all-star cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role of the director Guido. And the women are a who’s who of modern film including Sophia Loren, Dame Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Fergie and others. Here are clips from some of my favorite numbers in the film.
in this first clip French actress, Marion Cotillard, as Guido’s wife decides to say goodbye as she’s had enough of his cheating and dishonest behaviours. The song is “Take It All”. It is quite wonderful how the song reflects her interior dialogue in comparison to the “real” conversation she is having with Guido.
This next clip comes much earlier in the film and features Penelope Cruz who plays Guido’s mistress, Carla, always competing for his attention. In this scene Guido has escaped the movie set to try and pull things together and he places a call to his mistress. And she gives him what can only be described as a cinematic version of phone sex. So hot! And our good old Guido pretends it’s a call from the Vatican. LOL
And for a final scene – Kate Hudson in an unusual role featuring her singing and dancing. Cinema Italiano captures all the flash of a paparazzi photo session and glitz of Italian film making while singing about all the wonderful things that are typically seen in Fellini films (or in this case Guido’s films).
Now film number two. The hit Broadway Musical SWEET CHARITY from 1966 was made into a film 1969 and featured Shirley McClain in the title role of a girl who is looking for “real love”. The original movie was Federico Fellini’s NIGHTS OF CABIRIA which told the story of a prostitute looking for genuine love. For the adaptation to the stage and film production of SWEET CHARITY the main characters career was changed from prostitute to taxi dancer; a girl that dances with men who pay her. Of course the insinuation is that there is more than dancing going on. But that is Hollywood and the censorship board for you – always sanitizing and trying to “clean up” film. But the music is wonderful and deserves some mention here. Charity is an honest, and free spirited girl who has managed to maintain a certain innocence in spite of her profession. It is an endearing film but there is one thing about it that has not aged particularly well – that is it’s use of snap shots in place of filmed action in an effort to save time. But that aside – the music and dancing is great.
For this first clip I give you the song “Big Spender” which takes place in the dance bar where Sweet Charity works. A memorable song to say the least.
As Charity has several hits and misses in her quest for true love with men that have paid to dance with her and she has fallen in love with them hoping they were true in their intentions only to find they are not. After one of her rejections she is left wandering down the street in the rain and comes upon the “film star” Vittorio, played by Ricard Montalban who is in the midst of being rejected by his romantic interest. He and Charity connect and he takes her to a swank exotic club featuring different dance and music acts. Here is a the scene featuring the dances “The Aloof”, “The Heavyweight” and “The Big Finish” choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse.
Well Charity does meet here true love in an elevator and eventually he takes her to “church” officiated by Sammy Davis Jr. It’s the Rhythm Of Life Church with a groovy hippy culture. Another fantastic song. So, turn up the volume, tap you feet, clap your hands to the “Rhythm Of Life”
So what about the original Fellinin films these wonderful musicals were based on. Here are the trailers.
first for 8 1/2 and then Nights of Cabiria. Both films I highly recommend.
This is the time of year when people start compiling and review “best of” for the previous year. Those things have typically bored me and seem like a cheap “journalism”. Because they don’t really look at the “best of”. they look at the most popular. And we all know it if was popular it played to the lowest common denominator across the spectrum of popular culture.
As I said a few days ago 2020 was a difficult year culturally speaking. And in that post I included a clip from the movie TOMMY – which is still an amazing musical film. This year I find myself at the point where I’m re-watching musicals. The year has been so emotionally, psychologically exasperating that a little escapism is prescribed. And movie musicals fit that bill. In this post I want to focus on the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Three Astaire/Rogers films rank as my favorites among the lot. So if you’re just tired, fed up and frustrated with life take a little escape. It’s okay. (I can’t promise these videos can be seen in other countries but hopefully you will find a version that is accessible and available.)
First up is the song “HEAVEN from TOP HAT (1935) with music by Irving Berlin. This lush little number is the elegant dancing manifestation and lyrical expression of the songs title.
Next is another favorite Astaire/Rogers film SWING TIME (1936) with music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. Fred, plays a professional dancer who plays dumb and clumsy to meet and court Ginger. Here is the set up scene which also features Fred and Gingers comic sidekicks played by comedy veteran character actors Victor Moore and Helen Broderick.
… and the payoff… in an effort to save Gingers job….
And the last Astaire/Rogers film I want to feature is SHALL WE DANCE (1937) featuring music by George and Ira Gershwin. This film was unusual in it’s attempt to blend/merge tap and swing dancing with ballet. There are many wonderful numbers that features Fred in diverse settings where he can famously dance with different props. But I want to feature one of my favorite scenes which is comic bliss and sheer fun. It’s the famous roller skate scene. The setting is Fred and Ginger have escaped their New York hotel because they were being overrun by reporters and photographers who think they are married, and the scandal of her being supposedly pregnant on top of it – so they go to the park. You will note that these are not the roller skates of today with a boot like shoe and resin wheels. These are the old-fashioned strap on skates with steel wheels which makes this number all the more remarkable. Please enjoy “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”.
As a sort of end note; I want to include another wonderful dance on roller-skate scene this time by Gene Kelly. Personally I find the song a little inferior and the movie (a musical satire) with music by Andre Previn, isn’t one of his best but the dancing on roller skates is quite wonderful and endearing. Enjoy Gene Kelly from the movie IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955) dancing/skating to the song “I Like Myself”. The notion of dancing on wheels has all the elements of danger that inspires awe when done successfully. And note again these are the old fashioned strap-on skates with steel wheels.
Looks like we will have snow for Christmas here in Ohio. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a white Christmas. Well with everything going on this past year the holidays are somewhat melancholic. One of my favorite “mood” singers is Julia Fordham. Here is her song DECEMBER 24TH originally from a 1995 compilation album Winter Fire & Snow: Songs For The Holiday Season that featured various artists from around the world.
The lyrics will take you through the rest of this year into the new year. Enjoy.
“just goes to show ya, just goes to show ya, none of us have time to waste….you don’t always get back what you give”
Since Winter has long been a favorite time of year – because this old bear enjoys hibernation – and I had “need” to go out and see what snow cover there might be – I decided to head out this morning, with my camera, as the sun rose slowly in a clouded sky. I went to one park where I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few months and I went someplace I’ve never been to in Winter. And since the Winter Solstice is just around the corner I decided to post a couple of snow photos of the place I’ve never been to in Winter. Over the Summer and fall this location is used as a popular outdoor music venue and is also the site of an outdoor theater where plays are staged over the warmer months. The areas you see in the photos would be the grassy fields where cars park and concert goers would then walk to the main venue. The music venue has hosted all the major rock and pop acts over the years. I’d seen a few shows here but ticket prices were normally out of my budget. I actually prefer it as you see it here – empty. Never really got used to the large drunken crowds that tended to populate these events. So enjoy my version of “winter fest” at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH.
The year 2020
brought clarity of vision and acuity of perception
I was not happy
and HATED what I “saw”
wishing I was deaf, dumb and blind
(from one of my favorite musicals -more on musicals later)
I once saw a fish
washed upon the shore.
I stared down as it lay
on its sandy grave
taking its last breath
then stepped away
as the seagulls came
tearing away at the carcass.
And I thought.
This is the best we can hope for –
not to be remembered –
but to provide for whatever comes after us.
Knowing, like the fish,
when to live
and when to die.
The older I get
the less optimistic I feel.
Fantasy is for escape,
reality is for living;
however unpleasant it may be.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to drive onto private property to see “What’s UP with this bus?”. No one was around so I took a couple of shots. Was expecting, you know, standard bus interior. I was not prepared for what I found. Best view was through a hole in the back door.
I mean, I’ve met and known a lot of cool “chicks” on buses but I wasn’t expecting to find a hen house/chicken coop. Yep that’s exactly what this was used for.
(warning – not the best photo)
And now a favorite song that mentions buses. The album this came from brings back many fond memories. Specifically of a youth outing in the summer of 1976 (I’m banned from releasing details. LOL). And the drum riff by pan-disciplinary drummer Steve Gadd is sheer perfection. Go ahead, “Hop on the bus…” and enjoy. If you have a favorite bus song or if these images bring to mind a specific song feel free to post a link in your comment.
The paradox that is known as America.
I was digging through my vinyl collection and came across a real gem of a double album titled The Best Of The Mills Brothers. It had this wonderful song on it which I now dedicate to all politicians. Because they always hurt the one they claim to love (the country and people they serve who voted them into office).
If you’re familiar with photography you are most likely familiar with depth of field. But I want to explore absence of field and I think all of my photography does that in some way. I’ve written a little bit about a related viewpoint previously when I discussed my fascination with what goes on outside the frame of the photo. But absence of field is yet a variation of sorts of that notion. What is absent in my photographs? It really is quite obvious. I recently came across a poem by the great poet Mark Strand that describes this absence of field perfectly.
Keeping Things Whole
In a fieldI am the absenceof field.This isalways the case.Wherever I amI am what is missing.When I walkI part the airand alwaysthe air moves into fill the spaceswhere my body’s been.We all have reasonsfor moving.I moveto keep things whole.
Why the title? This image was created by manipulating a photo of a sweet potato after it had rooted in water. After the manipulation I can see what appears to be an alien female body. I questioned the dark blood-red color but found it kind of amusing – do vegetables bleed? No but vegetarians do. Is this meant to be a violent image? not at all but I can see why some might think so. I am not vegetarian although there have been times I’ve leaned in that direction. Overall vegetarianism and all dietary plans seem very abstract to me. So it makes sense that after I “cooked” the original photo and came up with this that it would be such an abstract image. When all is said-and-done I do like the darkness of the image. It gives me the same feeling of mystery and exploration as stepping into a cave and waiting for your eyes to adjust to the darkness as other senses like smell and hearing become heightened. So after “listening” and “smelling” this image for a while, what you do you think? How does it make you feel? What you do you hear – is there music that comes to mind (if so please add it to your comment)? What do you smell?
So I guess you could say this post falls in the category of things I like. As many of you who have followed my blog over the years knows, I love the 4AD music label(specifically the earlier years – the past 10-15 years have been somewhat hit/miss). One of the bands that I enjoy from the earlier years is RED HOUSE PAINTERS. I recently acquired their SHOCK ME ep.
This recording features 4 official tracks and one untitled “hidden” track (at the end of track 4). Released in 1994 it really is a wonderful collection of covers and original material. For this post I want to focus on the title track which is a cover of the KISS song Shock Me (written by Ace Frehley) that was originally on the KISS album LOVE GUN. In fact there are two versions on this EP (the electric and an acoustic version). Both versions are very solid and very unlike KISS. Which is one of the things I love.
Don’t get me wrong; I love kiss I actually saw the Alive II tour at a local venue called the Richfield Coliseum (near Cleveland – which no longer exists – how time flies) on 8/1/1978 and what a show! But that was in my fist pumpin’ hard rockin’ teen years. Maybe you’re not a fan of KISS or are not familiar with this song. That’s okay. Ace Frehley wrote this song after an event that actually occurred on the KISS’ ROCK AND ROLL OVER tour where he was nearly electrocuted. If you’re familiar with KISS you can imagine this song has the tell-tale chugging hard rock sound that many love from the make-up clad quartet. I’ll post that video at the end of this post for comparison sake. But first I want you to listen to the RED HOUSE PAINTERS version.
RED HOUSE PAINTERS have been described as slow core and folk rock. While their music inhibits both of those worlds this song is definitely in the slow core vein. One of the things I enjoy about it is that is has a very Velvet Underground feel to it. The second iteration of the song which is acoustic sounds familiar yet very different. I can sit with my eyes closed listening and imagining Lou Reed and Peter, Paul & Mary singing this. It really is quite beautiful.
The EP has ephemeral/ethereal cover art that 4AD was known for in the early days. If you don’t recognize the image – it is a detail of an old broken down upright piano keyboard. A beautiful simple image that resonates so well with the RED HOUSE PAINTERS sound. Dean Carlson of ALLMUSIC described this version of the song and the EP as “Somehow quietly splendid”. I look at the KISS version of SHOCK ME as the “I dare you to” version and the RED HOUSE PAINTERS versions as the “surprise me” versions. Because even though the lyrics and music is the same the songs couldn’t be more different. And I think a great original cover of a song that basically re-invents the songs potential is also great art. I think I’ve said all I can at this time. I hope you enjoyed this post.
Finally the moment you have been waiting for? Here’s the KISS version from a concert in 1998 in all their makeup and costumed glory. 🙂